Virtual Sales Expert Jakob Pieber: "Thanks to digital tools, I have the power of an entire team"
Since the global outbreak of Covid-19, video conferencing and collaboration tools have become an integral part of our everyday working lives. Working in a home office has proven its worth, and many companies are already thinking about offering this option on a permanent basis. But while little will change for many classic office jobs in the home office, sales in particular will face many new challenges. One person who has recognized great opportunities in these times of upheaval and reacted to them immediately is Jakob Pieber, a sales expert from Graz. With his company Virtual Sales Training, he has taken on the challenge of successfully digitizing sales processes. In this exciting digitalization talk, he reveals how he has succeeded in doing so, how he uses presono and what simple tips and tricks can be used to successfully optimize online sales.
Dear Jakob, since the beginning of the Corona crisis, you have been committed to ensuring that sales employees are better positioned digitally. What was the biggest challenge for you in transforming your sales activities from the analog to the digital world?
For me, there were more opportunities than challenges. The upside to the Corona crisis was that software tools have exploded. With current technical capabilities, for example, you can not only use body language much better, but also decode it as an interviewee. That would not have been possible so well a few years ago.
Successful communication depends on many different aspects. Are there also special etiquette rules in the virtual world that you should follow?
From my point of view, the camera should be switched on for every communication. However, you should tell the person you're talking to beforehand so that you don't surprise them in their jogging suit. With a short message in advance, the issue is usually settled. In addition, after almost two years of pandemic, the appropriate technical requirements should be in place. A webcam, usable sound and sufficient light so that I can be seen well, are just as important nowadays as polished shoes used to be. For a professional appearance, it is also essential to be well-versed in the use of technical tools.
What are the most common mistakes in digital sales?
Many make the mistake of not giving online presentations the same value, attention and preparation as a live meeting. Thinking that you can do a Zoom presentation off the cuff is a big mistake. On the contrary, you should prepare even more intensively for an online presentation, as it really needs to be to the point. You can improvise less and the conversation partners have a much lower attention span. You therefore have to make even more of an effort to consistently keep their attention high and keep addressing them personally. If you don't manage to do this, the people you are talking to will start checking their e-mails – and if this happens, you have already lost.
Another important point is the preparation of the presentation. What works offline cannot be transferred 1:1 to the virtual world. Different rules apply here, and it's important to learn them. For example, while offline one is usually in a large meeting room, the customer may be watching the presentation online on a smartphone. Consequently, you have to prepare the presentation graphically quite differently and ensure, for example, that information can also be read. In addition, the presentation should be kept short with a maximum of 10 to 15 minutes, whereby it is crucial to set as many interaction points as possible in order to learn as much as possible from the customer.
What are the advantages of modern technology compared to customer experiences in the analog world?
The very big advantage is of course the time and cost component. Since you also no longer have to necessarily bring all the stakeholders into one room, many small, individual presentations can be created that can be tailored to the needs of the respective contacts. This customized addressing is an enormous plus in the persuasion work.
How do you build trust with digital tools and how can you compensate for the personal contact of the analog world?
Trust also has a lot to do with familiarity. When you meet someone online for the first time, for example, it can be helpful to send a short video with a greeting message in advance. In addition, I recommend networking via social media. This gives the person you're meeting the opportunity to get an idea of what you're like. By the time the first online meeting takes place, you're no longer complete strangers. Of course, a little small talk is also a must. In the past, people would ask about their journey to the meeting, for example. Today, they look for connecting factors in the background and ask where the person they're talking to is currently located.
In addition, I recommend adopting a standing posture during online presentations. In this way, body language can be used effectively and one's own personality can be conveyed better – the energy level is also immediately higher than in a sitting position.
What other requirements must be met for digital sales to function optimally and successfully?
In my view, this includes a willingness to try out new things. Tools are currently developing at a rapid pace. You shouldn't miss out on the opportunities to use these innovations. However, I would advise against live experiments. I would rather try out everything new in advance in the team before integrating it into the daily work routine. Ultimately, sales is always about surprising the customer and offering more than is expected. This wow effect can ultimately determine your own success. Currently, this works very well with short video messages, for example. Be it a greeting message or a short film about a new product. The important thing is to always choose several channels so that you ultimately find the form of communication that suits the customer in question.
That's exactly what you work on with your customers in virtual sales training. How does such a training session work?
The training mainly takes place in the B2B field with companies that sell relatively complex products that require explanation. I develop an individual workshop concept for each company that is tailored to the wishes, needs and knowledge level of the team. The training units are very compact and amount to a maximum of two hours. Afterwards, what has been learned should be immediately implemented in everyday work and deepened in additional exercises. In the next unit, the experience gained in practice is reflected upon and the respective topics are further deepened. A crucial point here is the dovetailing of analog and digital tools. If I manage to successfully unite these two worlds, I as an individual suddenly have the power of an entire team.
Since the beginning of Pandemic, you've tested a wide range of tools. Which tool (apart from ours) really excited you for the first time and why?
I'm a big fan of digital whiteboards. Used correctly, they are an extremely powerful tool. The exciting thing is that you can work out the solution together with the customer. As a result, they feel even more involved and informed. After all, you can not only draw, paint and write on the digital whiteboard, but also integrate presentations and documents and ultimately have all the relevant information in one place. In this way, a living document can be developed together, which is then used for the entire sales cycle.
Our tool is also used on digital whiteboards. What other presono features do you think are particularly helpful in sales?
From my point of view, the asynchronous capacities in presono are incredibly exciting in sales. The fact that you can send an exact image of a presentation that has been held and then evaluate the individual click behavior of the recipient is extremely powerful.
In addition, it is also possible, for example, to integrate a summary of a zoom meeting into a presentation and send it by e-mail to the respective discussion partner. After all, the core of virtual selling is not simply to hold nice video conferences, but to really reach the conversation partner and create a wow effect. This only works with a suitable mix of synchronous and asynchronous communication. And it is precisely this asynchronous part, in which the customer can get the information at a time that suits him, in a form that suits him, that is of course unique with presono.
The possibility to insert in-depth menus into the sent presentation is also incredibly exciting – especially in the subsequent detailed evaluation. The fact that you can actually see what the customer is really interested in is an enormous plus in sales. The more information you have, the better solutions you can develop for the customer. At the end of the day, it always has to be a good experience for the customer – that's the crux of virtual sales.
In addition, presono's central data management is an enormous advantage in daily business, because it means you can be sure you always have the most up-to-date version of your presentation. This means you can always head out to the customer with a clear conscience.
What does the optimal presentation look like for you?
Many presentations miss the customer. The customer is not interested in your company history, but in what you can do for him. Therefore, the most important thing before any presentation is the needs assessment. To match this, you should then design a targeted, customized presentation that will stir emotions and consequently the urge to act. The key here is to overcome the customer's resistance to change – because every purchase also brings about a change. In the end, the customer should say "Yes, I want it! Let's get started!"
The topic of digitization is not only extremely present at the moment, it also affects almost everyone. Why do you think there are still so many companies that are reluctant to transform their operations into the virtual world?
One big factor is certainly the issue of insecurity. But when you consider that, according to a McKinsey study, 80% of all B2B decision-makers already prefer online channels, it's inexplicable to me not to jump on this bandwagon. The time saved by online meetings is a crucial point. After all, an average of about 6.8 people are involved in a purchase decision. Consequently, you will hardly hold a sales meeting after which you receive an immediate acceptance or rejection.
With virtual meetings, there is no need to travel to the meeting and follow-up appointments can be made more quickly. In addition, virtual meetings make it easier to put together individual presentations – after all, the IT expert is interested in completely different aspects than the marketing manager. With presono, you can then put together customized presentations and packages that are really relevant for the respective discussion partners and also attend to them in parallel. After all, it is hardly possible to address everyone in a group meeting. Especially since in pandemic and home office times it is also becoming increasingly difficult to get several people into one room. Basically, online meetings are an enormous time and cost saver from the customer's point of view.
What do you think the future of sales looks like?
In my view, hybrid sales is the future. People will continue to visit customers in person, but only when it makes absolute sense. Furthermore, field sales will probably be completely eliminated for businesses below a certain level of complexity. For me personally, the automation of repetitive work is also a crucial point. It makes the life of the salesperson much easier, and he or she can focus even better on the customer.
Your top 3 tips for companies that want to bring their sales into the digital world:
First, it is important to provide basic technical equipment and acquire the right software tools. To eliminate uncertainties and guarantee professional work, appropriate training and education are an absolute must.
Next, the willingness to try out new things is an essential point. In this way, the employees' scope of action should be supplemented by digital possibilities and optimally adapted to the respective company.
As a third point I would like to mention is the attitude of the employees. They should be made aware that the new digital tools not only make everyday work easier, but can also increase individual success.
In conclusion, what are the most important insights and learnings you have gained from the last few months?
I've been able to build very good digital relationships – almost friendships – over the last few months. For me, this is a great confirmation that the digital path is working. At the same time, digitization doesn't stand still, but continues to develop constantly. In five years, digital sales will look very different from what it does now – and you can't miss these steps. This is why now is the ideal time to really get to grips with this topic and consider how you can derive the optimum benefit from these developments for yourself and your company – and that includes a certain willingness to experiment.